This is about the issues I have observed with the moderation on this site.

I know that we had/still have some issues with how some users behave on this site that make moderation a difficult task. Just to name a few: 1. sectarianism, 2. intolerance, 3. voting based on agreement/disagreement, not quality, 4. copy-paste answers, 5. preaching, 6. persistent disregard towards site's rules. And there are other issues, and there will be new ones in future.

But IMO we also have another problem which is the behavior of some moderators. I know very well that they are putting a lot of time and effort into serving the community but I think the issue is important and should be raise here. I am hoping the situation will improve. Maybe they have got too tried after 2 years, in which case it might be better for them and for the site if they step down.

Let's be clear: we had and have a moderation problem. Otherwise we wouldn't need so much help from Caleb and Jon and the rest of SE team. Part of the issue is that some moderators are not very active so other moderators have to also cover for them. Part of the issue is that some moderators misuse their moderator powers (which should be only used when really necessary). Their attitude is that of a judge/policeman, not that of a community builder or a respectful educator. Yes, sometimes there are persistent trouble-makers that should be dealt with firmly. But that should be the exception not the default. I should suggest people read the moderation theory post. The fact that the site has problems does not justify suspension of those responsibilities. We have to accept that some of the issues that the site has will keep resurfacing from time to time because of new users.

We designed the Stack Exchange network engine to be mostly self-regulating, in that we amortize the overall moderation cost of the system across thousands of teeny-tiny slices of effort contributed by regular, everyday users. [...] Even with active community self-regulation, moderators occasionally need to intervene. Moderators are human exception handlers, there to deal with those (hopefully rare) exceptional conditions that should not normally happen, but when they do, they can bring your entire community to a screaming halt — if you don’t have human exception handling in place.


So in summary, if you are a community moderator on a Stack Exchange site, here’s what to expect:

  1. As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have.
  2. Your goal is to guide the community with gentle — but firm — intervention. Respect your fellow community members at all times; demonstrate fairness and impartiality in your actions.
  3. Whenever possible, try to leave frequent comments on posts where you’ve taken (or considered taking) a moderator action, explaining the reasoning. This is important so that community members can learn the norms of the community and the moderation policies.
  4. Keep the site reasonably on topic by closing, migrating, or removing blatantly off-topic questions.
  5. Regularly check for flagged posts, and decide if further action is warranted.
  6. In the case of serious disputes, communicate directly with users via email to help mediate and resolve those disputes.


A lot of the moderation work is extremely mundane, almost janitorial. It’s deleting obvious spam, closing blatantly off-topic questions, and culling some of the worst rated posts in various dimensions.

The ideal moderator does as little as possible. But those little actions may be powerful and highly concentrated. Judiciously limiting your use of moderator powers to selectively prune and guide the community — now that’s the true art of moderation.

I think some of our moderators are failing quite badly in "the true art of moderation".

Here are the criteria by SE for being a good moderator:

Community moderators are accorded the highest level of privilege on our community, and should themselves be exemplars of positive behavior and leaders within the community.

Our general criteria for moderators is as follows:

  • patient and fair
  • leads by example
  • shows respect for their fellow community members in their actions and words
  • open to some light but firm moderation to keep the community on track and resolve (hopefully) uncommon disputes and exceptions

Let me mention a few specific issues I have seen with some moderators:

  1. Loosing patience and even temper and acting impolitely towards users,
  2. Misusing moderator privileges to deal with issues that does not require them, e.g. there is way too much deletion,
  3. Not feeling responsible towards other users of the site,
  4. Not documenting moderator decisions in a clear and understandable manner (if at all),
  5. Moderating not in "lead by example" style but rather by the force of moderator powers.

Here are some specific advice:

A moderator should keep their calm and manage the situation even if the other party looses their temper as is expected from those who are given extra privileges. These privileges are not for personal use. If you are involved in a dispute and there is not much harm in not taking immediate action (which is usually the case) then delegate and let another moderator decide if a moderator action is necessary. If you are involved in the dispute it is likely that you will misuse the powers and privileges bestowed upon you. It is a clear case of conflict of interests even if you feel they don't effect your decision and you are just applying the rules (see Dan Ariely's talk and this article). It also doesn't work if you do something and then seek confirmation from other moderators, because they are likely to feel pressure to confirm with your action and may not be able to make an unbiased decision.

You are not an employee of Stack Exchange Inc., you are a community moderator, you represent the community, your main responsibility is towards the community. SE provides the software, helps us with their advice which is based on their vast amount of experience, and is interested in the success of the site. But they are not the community. If you don't feel that you need to earn and maintain the respect of the community then you are not really a community moderator.

The "close/delete and move on without documenting" attitude is not very helpful. That is part of the reason that some issues keep happening. A user doesn't learn anything from close/delete and move on. It might be OK in case of dealing with a persistent offender who intentionally violate the site policies. But the default typical moderation attitude should be that of educating the users about the scope of the site and how to use it properly, not just discarding and moving on. The fact that you have explained the reason once somewhere does not mean you don't need to explain it again. Not everyone who have made a mistake more than once is a persistent offender. They might not have understood what you said. (Do you understand everything that you are told the first time you are told?) They may forget it. It takes time and repeated reminders to get used to the rules and policies.

Editing questions which are not suitable in their form to make them suitable is a major part of educating users. This is really important in beta to help others learn how to use the site appropriately. Closing/deleting is the easy way to deal with off-topic questions. There is a bit of editing but it is rather small in comparison to just discarding what is not suitable. When you see an unsuitable question you should ask yourself "how can I improve it and make it suitable while preserving the OP's intention?" and if there is any possibility of editing the question to make it suitable then you should edit and improve the question. Good teachers restates even the most stupid looking questions of their students such that the question becomes interesting and intelligent.

As a moderator you are expected to document your moderation actions in a clear way that others who see it can understand. I often find myself having trouble understanding why a question is closed or a post is deleted. There is no comment explaining the action. This is even more problematic when using binding moderator powers. There is often no comment whatsoever let alone a clear explanations linking to appropriate site policies such that a honest reader can see the justification for the action. I know it is a lot of work to document moderator actions but it is your responsibility to justify your usage of moderator powers. Just because you feel something is not suitable is not enough. You should base and justify your actions on specific site policies, and the fact that the policy applies to the case should be clear for others (i.e. not just your interpretation of the policy). It is not enough that you believe you are doing the right thing. It should be backed up with written policies of the site. If it is not a clear-cut case then it should be discussed on meta. (Making a list of common comments similar to the list on TeX.SE might help a bit).

Finally, although the meta uses essentially the same software as the main site, it doesn't follow the same rules. Many things that are unwelcome on the main site are completely fine on meta. E.g. meta is for discussing issues, policies, and behaviors. Nothing should be deleted on meta unless it is really really necessary. If someone leaves irrelevant comments on some post ask them politely to move them to a new question or chat and let them delete their comments afterwards themselves. MSO/MSE have tons of completely off-topic comments and no one deletes them as long as they are not causing really serious problem.

  • 1
    A very complete report on the common problem with moderation. It will be better even if you ask other users to mention their suggestions. Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 10:03
  • 4
    Dear Kaveh I should thank you for this fair criticism, they are partly the reasons for which I almost left Islam.SE ...
    – owari
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 17:41
  • An awesome post and very well written. Thanks!
    – muslim1
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 16:39
  • 1
    you indeed inquired a very significant question. God bless you mate. Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 7:06

4 Answers 4


Let me start out by saying this appears to be a well intentioned attempt to raise issues on meta. You've clearly put some time and effort into making your case well. I appreciate that. Likewise you appear to have a number of positive contributions around the site. While someone without such a history of positive contributions who is just a crank might have difficulty raising the same issues (even if they are legitimate) your voice holds some weight.

That being said I must respectfully disagree with a number of your premises and suggest that if you correct the premises your argument is based on the conclusion will change from "moderators are the problem" to "the community is the problem".

I touched on a number of these issues before in my answer to the question demanding election of new moderators. This will be rehashing some of those points from a different angle, but the gist is the same. I think you've cross-wired the problem and the solution.

So lets deal with some false premises. These aren't things you said so much as conditions that would have to be true for your case to pull it's weight.

  1. Mods aren't being educational.

    This just doesn't seem to be supported by the facts. In particular both you and others around here have accused the more active moderators taking action on the main site of not "educating" or "leading by example". Looking into whether this is true or not turns up hard evidence that this is not the case.

    • All of the moderators seem to be active on the main site answering questions, commenting, and doing other normal activities that are very much "leading by example". Their posts seem to be good examples of how to formulate constructive posts of the sort that make good SE sites. The problem is few seem to be following this example.

    • All of the moderators are active on meta both posting educational explanations of how the site should work and replying to inquires and concerns. If fact the mod that seems to be the focus of most consternation, goldPseudo, has one shy of 150 answers and > 30 other posts—the vast majority of which are clearly directed at educating people about how the site should work. The problem seems to be nobody is reading or doing anything about all this educating.

    • I am not as active on main, but every time I have been around I've seen plenty of comments noting the issues with posts. The problem I see is that these are repetitive ad nausium because everybody is just ignoring them. This is a community problem not a moderator problem. They say you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

    • Educating new users on how the site works needs to be done my the whole community. If education isn't happening, blame yourself. Even if they were sitting on their hands (which they aren't) pointing the finger at mods for this one isn't necessary because you don't have to be a mod to educate new users. You don't have to be a mod to write helpful meta posts that explain common issues on the site and how to overcome them. You don't have to be a mod to comment on posts that have these problems, link to the meta posts explaining the issue and encourage them to fix the issues. If there isn't enough of this going on (and I think there is room for improvement here) there is nothing stopping you from pitching in.

  2. Mods should be doing all the work to grow the community.

    This isn't stated as explicit in your post as the previous point, but the idea seems to be behind the whole argument. This is simply not the solution. Mods are not in a position to act as some sort of caliph leading a charge to a better future. You cited the SE's post A Theory of Moderation as if it was an indictment on moderators taking action, but the gist of that post is really about community moderation. It talks about all the things users are both allowed and expected to do in support of moderation efforts. It touches briefly on the moderator side of things, but it's really about the whole community functioning together.

    The breakdown on this site appears to be that only the moderators and a handful of community members are working to support a vision for this site that is compatible with SE norms. They can't do it by themselves. As I said in my other post the issue is not that moderators are separated from the community, it's that a large chunk of this community has separated from not only the moderators but the way SE sites in general are designed to function.

    This false premise came out most clearly in your objection about editing. You are correct that editing is one of the most constructive ways to fix up your site and instructive. That's a good observation, but trying to blame the mods for this not happening as much as it should is grossly inaccurate. All 4 of your current moderators are in the top 5 most prolific editors on the site. One of them has made nearly a 100 times more edits than you have. Combined, your current and former mods have more edits that the entire non-mod community combined!

    If leading by example and editing to educate new users is a qualification for good moderators as you assert, then your current lot of moderators is clearly the best on your site.

  3. Mods shouldn't be taking unilateral action.

    This is what they were appointed to be able to do. If for some reason their judgment is not good or out of line with your site guidelines then it should be addressed. However this by itself is not a sign of abuse. This is their job. Expect this to happen.

    Along with this false premise this is a point of method. Your entire post is almost completely devoid of specifics. There are no case studies for any of the points you make, only assertions. These may or may not be valid, but without specifics it's almost impossible to ① discuss these issues because the only thing at stake here is your feelings and opinions on them or ② do anything about them as there is specific action to be taken and no metric to judge whether a difference has been made other that your feeling.

    If the unilateral actions taken by mods are not consistent with your site's guidelines, then bring up those specifics one at a time. Be prepared for the community to sometimes agree with the mods. When that happens suck it up and realize you might not be right, and even if you are you won't get your way all the time. On the other hand at times they will agree with you and the specific issues should get fixed. If they don't, then and only then do you have a case to take either back here or to the SE community team to get a fix. If that means picking new mod(s), that will happen only if you can actually demonstrate specific instances where they are working against SE norms and the interests of this site.

    If it is unclear whether mods are in or out of line with site guidelines, then fix the guidelines.

  4. Every mod actions should be equally explained.

    In an ideal world of course you would be able to hand hold every new member that came along and teach them all how to craft appropriate posts. In reality neither you nor the mods have the time to do this and you have to draw a line somewhere and just clean up your site and move along. You can comment on posts that need help of course, but you still have to deal with them. If they are inappropriate for the site you still have to remove them. The more prolific a problem the less specific attention and "help" each instance of it is going to get.

    The fact that you are complaining about this suggests that the problems with posts have gotten to be so prolific that you don't have enough moderation going on. Cracking down on other issues

    Repeat offenders might run into cases where they are no longer getting specific help on each post. Linking them back to their previous issues or the relevant meta posts is about as much help as they can expect. If they keep ignoring the hints and not reading the helps, they should expect to get bounced.

    This also goes back to point #2: this should be the responsibility of the community as much as it is of moderators. If your new users need help, get in there and help them. If you do a really good job of that and stand out, maybe you'll end up being appointed as a mod yourself, but if you just blame mods for not doing this enough nothing is going to progress.

  5. "Mods shouldn't delete χ"

    …where χ is…

    • "…comments critical of mods or mod actions".

      This just isn't a helpful rule. The thing is there are proper venues for certain types of content and one of the jobs that falls to mods is to enforce the proper use of these venues. Comments on main that are just whining about mod actions (or worse, mod personalties) simply do not serve a constructive purpose. Leaving them around just turns the place into a cess pool where bad attitudes breed instead of pass.

      Cleaning these up is not censorship as long as a proper venue is provided. In the SE system there are proper venues for complaints, but there are also improper venues. Mods enforcing the use of proper venues is one way the site keeps from devolving into a forum.

    • "…anything on meta."

      It's true that meta serves a different purpose and has different rules than main. That doesn't mean it has no rules or structure. Moderators are required to keep its wheels greased and everything running smoothly just as much as on main. There is certainly room for voicing anti-establishment sentiment (or more constructively objections to specific actions), but it should still be done in a controlled and organized way.

      Specific things that can and should be deleted from meta include:

      • Off topic answers. Each meta post (just like on main) should define a general scope for discussion. Answers should stick to that general scope and respond to the raised issues. Obviously there is some room for improvising, but each post should not be be hijacked as a place to soap-box somebody's pet issue (which I see happening quite a bit).

      • Off topic comments. This is even more of a problem and should be cleaned up even more aggressively. I see comments under all sorts of unrelated posts (both positive and negative, both questioning and educational) ranting about unrelated topics. These don't help your site or bring the issues closer to resolution. When a new user asks a question about how something works or why something happened and mods or other users answer constructively explaining the issue, then the post gets littered with "the real problem is mods are dictators" comments this just poisons the site.

        Instead each issue should be raised for discussion. It is best to do this in terms of specific instances rather than general impressions as then any resolution will have concrete results. Each of these meta posts can be voted on, discussed, and a resolution settled on. This resolution may or may not be what the poster wanted, but they need to respect the outcome. If there is any sort of clear pattern in the community feedback and voting that should be considered normative for the site. If there is not a clear pattern if will be up to the mods to voice a position and settle the matter.

        Once a guideline is established, constantly commenting around the site objecting to this guideline being enforced should be restricted. If it becomes apparent that a guideline needs revision, a meta post should be opened and the case for that made. In the mean time the guideline should be supported by the community even when it isn't their personal preference. Especially in the case of commenting on new users posts, they should be pointed to the established guidelines not dragged into some users dispute of those guidelines.

      • Repetitive content. If the same stuff is getting posted over and over, closing the questions as duplicate and removing answers that belong elsewhere (or have been posted for discussion elsewhere) can be a good thing.

  6. Mods should go against SE norms in order to please the community.

    Um, no. Mods are expected to advocate for the best interests of the community. But the community they need to be activist for is the community that would be if the SE norms are most effectively applied to the subject matter of your site. The crowd you are trying to please here is not necessarily a majority of users (especially users without experience on other SE sites). An ideal site that fits well in the SE ecosystem would look like might not be what a lot of people even want. That might mean you need to find new users. You want to cater to users that "get" the system, not ones that fight it.

  7. Other sites don't do χ.

    The technically oriented sites have less instances of this than the humanities ones, but across the board there are always cases where content gets deleted from metas. The same cases I list above of repetitive, nonconstructive, or off-topic content are grounds for deletion on most meta sites. Insisting that the proper venues are used for the right sort of thing is the job of moderators across the network.

Mods aren't your biggest problem. It's not even clear they are a problem at all. Of course they aren't perfect and I see room for improvement, but you're making them into scapegoats and saddling the issues with your community on them. This isn't fair and won't get your site anywhere. If you don't start shouldering some of the blame and the load and getting your community on board this whole thing is going to fizzle.

  • 1
    Not sure how this answer got +5 votes. Sorry to say you got everything wrong.
    – muslim1
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 16:48
  • 3
    @muslim1, I personally have up-voted Caleb's answer: he is a moderator on a similar SE site and has been trying to help us with the issues we have been facing so we can have a healthy site, he does have good points in his answer, e.g. other high rep users should participate in moderation and implementing the site's policies more actively.
    – Kaveh
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 17:20
  • Unliked our moderators with higher ethics who use double votes (a user vote and moderator vote on the same question), I did not down vote his answer at all. I do believe his assessment is very wrong and is defending moderators. I can't stress how biased moderation here is on this site. And that is where the problem is.
    – muslim1
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 18:34
  • 4
    @muslim1 First, mods can't vote twice. They just can't. Second, if you disagree with my assessment you should downvote this post. That is how meta is supposed to work.
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 20:48
  • 1
    @muslim1, based on what I have observed the moderators do not seem to be too biased towards a particular view. That is not the cause of the conflicts in my opinion.
    – Kaveh
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 21:43
  • @Caleb, let me give you an example of twice voting. A moderator down votes a question/answer. That is one vote. Then goes ahead and delete the post altogether. That is second vote. By vote it does not necessarily mean the same vote twice. It means you are using your influence twice. Not sure if my assessment is correct. As you a mod yourself, is this possible? If yes, doesn't it count as double vote?
    – muslim1
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 6:54
  • @Caleb Secondly I did not down vote your answer because 1) I did not read it fully 2) I respect your participation on this site. You come out of your way to help out here. I do not want to discourage any one who want to put their effort in improving things here.
    – muslim1
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 6:59
  • 5
    @muslim1 ① If you didn't read my post fully how can you comment to say I got "everything wrong"? How do you know I didn't get at least some littly thing right in a bit you didn't read? ② You're using votes wrong. Votes are not for people, you aren't voting for or against me or my participation here, votes on meta represent agreement or disagreement with the opinion expressed in a specific post. That's how meta is supposed to work. My effort should have nothing to do with it (at least not on meta, main is a littly different but you still should never be voting for people!)
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 9:51
  • @Caleb well it is a long post so I skimmed it. Does not mean I did not read anything, does not mean I read everything. I got the gist of it and that's why what I said. A useful comment is perhaps better than a lame down vote. Anyways, everyone has their way of doing things. I try to be as constructive as possible.
    – muslim1
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 20:26
  • I absolutely agree that one should not keep bringing the same issue, specially when the topic of discussion is something else. That is reasonable. However there is a difference between did issues that are relevant to the topic (specially when one of the mods is the one who brings it up) and completely irrelevant comments. I don't think anyone is objecting to removal of the later category. The objection is about comments about did issues.
    – Kaveh
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 21:03
  • 2
    Aggressively removing comments which are not completely irrelevant to the discussion is something I haven't seen on any other SE site and that is something I very strongly believe needs to stop on this meta (not saying I have seen a recent case since my question). It's not a mod's job to clean up meta, that is a really dangerous idea and we know very well where it leads from history. It is not their responsibility to have a "clean" meta. Their responsibility is to handle exceptions, not go around the meta and delete what they personally may find not very relevant.
    – Kaveh
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 21:18
  • I wish I could give this post many upvotes.
    – Daniel
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 1:41
  • I just saw this post, and I thought I should bring my issue to your attention. If you see my answer here and scroll down to the image, you will see that my comment was removed, with no reason. Why? Because someone from another sect said something good about Shiaism. On the contrary if you look into my recent answers, you will most likely see user a specific user commenting left and right and no deletion happens which is good to some extent. Just sometimes he takes it too far :)
    – Thaqalain
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 16:36


Let me first thank you for helping us. Now I am not saying moderators are the problem and the community is not. I think my first paragraph clearly states that there are problems in the community. What I am saying is that particular moderator behaviors are also problematic and unhelpful and at times counter-productive for resolving those issues. There are problems on both sides. I feel that you and some others are acting as apologist for moderators even when their actions are not justified because the site has other problems that we are dealing with and should focus on. I disagree with this attitude. These are part of the reason the issues we have with the community keep resurfacing: the issues that are not being resolved but are pushed away in the "it is so because I say so" fashion resurface. The result is we don't build a real community that maintains those policies, and in turn it leads to moderators doing more than they may need to. The site is over 2 years old, do you feel we have built a community? Let's be modest and say 5 high rep users who actively help in moderation? If not why not? Would you say there have not been even 5 high rep active users with good intentions?

Re. 1: Some moderators are not as active in moderation as others. That is part of the reason goldPseudo gets criticized, he is covering for others. You mentioned some of their activities, that is good, I am not dismissing them. But there are other parts that they do not lead by example, e.g. closing/deleting. The typical attitude I see is "discard what is deemed unsuitable", not "edit/improve to make suitable".(I myself try to to help though I spend a relatively limited amount of time on this site and what I do is proportional to that, and I defend and explain mod actions when I think they are right.)

Re. 2: I agree, and I keep repeating this: the moderators are doing a lot of good job, I am not dismissing that. Most of the advice in my post also applies to other high rep users including myself (I try to edit whenever I can but as I wrote I spend limited time on this site and the number of my edits are proportional to that). The moderation should be mainly by community. Up to here I don't have a disagreement with you. But I think that the moderation attitude is partly (though not mainly) responsible for this lack of community participation in moderation.

Re. 3: I don't think I ever said they shouldn't act unilaterally. What I am saying is different: avoid conflict of interests, if you are personally involved in a dispute and dealing with it is not urgent then let another moderator handle it. I think this is just common sense. I can give specific examples for each of my points, and have done so in other places on meta, through flags, etc. but I think it will just divert this discussion to particulars.

Re. 4: I didn't have those quantifiers in my point. Major moderator actions should be understandable for others, this is part of pure SE advice. Sometimes it is clear what was the reason to take an action, sometimes it is not. When it is not it should be adequately explained. As I said I myself often have trouble on this site understanding why posts are closed or deleted. Leaving a short comment linking to the applicable policy would solve it and there is a userscript that makes posting common ones a matter of two clicks. It is not something that would overwhelm moderators. On the other hand, I think those educational comments will have considerable effect on reducing the work load in the long run.

Re. 6: Again I have not said they should go against SE norms or guidelines to please community. What I have said is again in SE moderation theory: the community moderators represent the community, they are not SE employees. Why am I emphasizing this? Because I think they sometimes forget this. That doesn't mean they should do whatever community pleases, but they should keep it in their mind, it has an effect on how they deal with other users.

Re. 7,5: I mentioned other sites just to show this is not the norm on metas. I don't think there is a difference on this issue between technical and nontechnical sites. Most deleted stuff I have seen on this meta didn't really need deletion, they are not even completely off-topic to the discussions but often related side-issues. Are you going to tell me they are more off-topic than unicorn stuff on MSO or MSE? Now it is more than that. In many cases, not only the deletion doesn't help, but it is also counter-productive. It represent the same "it is so because I said so" attitude. It creates tension and disgruntled users who feel the moderators are abusing their power and not sensitive/respectful towards them. The fact that people keep repeating the same issues can be a sign that this attitude doesn't resolve the issue and it is not working.

Btw, it would be more appropriate if you don't put those statements in quotations. Considering the number of times that you misquote me in your answer (in a way that distorts my intentions and turns them into statements that it is clear I would disagree with your restatements) I think you should reread my post more carefully when you have time. The intention is not scapegoating the moderators as I said, they are doing a lot of good job, I am not dismissing that, but there are moderator behaviors that harm community building that need to be addressed and changed, not white-washed just because we have other problems.

  • You nailed all the points in your question itself. @Caleb got most of your points wrong. You nailed it when you said I feel that you and some others are acting as apologist for moderators even when their actions are not justified
    – muslim1
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 16:45

I originally didn't plan on answering this post, as Caleb's answer pretty accurately reflects my own opinions on the matter. I'll try not to rehash the points that he's already brought up, but there's still some fundamental issues here that I feel need addressing.

Honestly, I agree with you on pretty much everything you said, but a lot of what you present as moderator problems is simply difference in moderation style. You say that moderators should only use their powers in necessary situations? I agree, but we apparently have very different thresholds on what constitutes "necessary". You say moderators need to feel responsible to other users on the site and to represent the community? I agree, but we apparently have very different understandings of what "the community" wants.

If I was running for moderatorship on a graduated site, I'd probably drink in this post wholesale, it's great advice. But unless you can convince me that it'll work for getting this particular community on this particular site even one step closer to graduation, it's not very useful to me. To me, just assuming that what works for other sites will inevitably work here does a far greater disservice to the community than anything else you've presented.

Based on your arguments (here and elsewhere) you seem to be operating on a very fundamental misunderstanding of what exactly a Moderator Pro Tem is. I don't doubt that you have plenty of valuable experience to share as a moderator (if my calculations are correct, you've been moderatoring on Stack Exchange for longer than I have, at least). But from many of the points you present, I suspect you've not actually done much moderatoring for a beta site, and especially not for one with a community as fractured as ours.

The difference between moderator appointment and moderator election is subtle, but important: Stack Exchange doesn't trust a nascent community to know what's best for itself and to make effective decisions on their own yet, and especially to be in accordance to Stack Exchange norms. The community proving its own viability to Stack Exchange is a vital step toward the site actually graduating.

Yes, moderators need to earn the respect of the community. But far more importantly at this stage, the onus is on the community to earn the respect of Stack Exchange. And unlike a moderator on a graduated site, where the community has already proven that it can regulate itself, expediting the path to graduation — to preparing the community for graduation — is very much a role of the moderator pro tem.

To use an example from your own post, if you want moderators to sit on their hands and only enforce existing written policies (which I agree is a fine example to follow when moderating a graduated site) you would still need to demonstrate that…

  • …the written policy actually represents what the community wants
  • …the community can reliably establish the policies it needs

The moderator's ability to represent the community effectively is directly correlated to the community's ability to make its concerns known. And right now, the community is absolutely terrible at expressing itself. Gauging community opinion on meta is tricky at the best of times, but on a site with neither a history of constructive meta activity nor a history of proper voting behaviour, moderators simply cannot rely on meta votes alone to determine what the community wants.

I assure you, I do take the needs and wants of the community into consideration when I perform a moderator action, but taking the pulse of this community is far more art than science, and decisions need to be based on a lot of subjective factors (many of which involve details I am not at liberty to discuss). Sure, I've made mistakes. I've been called out on many of them, I learn from them and move on, that's just part of being human.

This community was fractured well before the moderator pro tems were appointed. Then as now, I felt that the best way to handle that and for the site to grow was for the community to…

  • …take a hard line against things that will disrupt the site
  • …be particularly harsh against argumentative behaviour
  • …trust its own judgement on when to perform actions

That's exactly what I promised to do when I was appointed, and remains the example I choose to lead by today. Maybe I'm wrong, who knows. But a significant chunk of the community, as well as the Stack Exchange team that appointed me, didn't seem to think so. And I've seen little if anything to convince me that this has changed.

You may disagree with the example I'm trying to set, but rest assured I am setting the example I mean to set, and I continue to take my responsibilities as seriously now as I did then.


The only part I agree with is not being active much nowadays. But I guess there are valid reasons for that which you already mentioned above (2 years, few active members, and many users who are not willing to learn). But truth should be said. They are dealing with flags and spam posts.

Other than that the whole thing looked more like a reminder/advice for the mods. Thank you for writing this if this was the main intention for writing it.

The issues you mentioned in your post were already discussed here. Repeating what I have said before, Mods are being extra nice, they respond to users and communicate with them. However, the amount of criticism they receive on Meta is unbearable. Not even that, they are being followed to the chat room and still the users are not willing to learn at all. Thus, removing their posts without warning. Which is even supported by SE team. Weren't you following the meta at that time? Even as a non-mod I used to feel sorry for them. They are humans for god's sake. We always blame them but we forget that we (users with deleted answers/questions) also need to be patient and have an open mind.

The second point I would to mention is the one you already quoted in your post:

We designed the Stack Exchange network engine to be mostly self-regulating, in that we amortize the overall moderation cost of the system across thousands of teeny-tiny slices of effort contributed by regular, everyday users.

This is really important and yet it seems from your post that you completely ignored. Many users here are not grasping the concept that mods are just regular users with more privileges which help regulate this site. They are not obligated to teach everyone. It is the duty of others to do so. Asking them to do so is way over to much. Again, with the users here not willing to learn too this is draining their powers completely.

And don't expect the mods to full be active with a site that got < 1000 view/day and few active users. Even yourself, you only come here to participate when there are controversial posts on meta. So please don't ask the mods to be motivated while the community itself is not.

You might be interested in reading this post which is written by a user describing his journey through this site: "Do mods come straight from hell if they are not the way we want them to be?"

  • 1
    Sorry, but I think you are just white-washing the problems. The fact that the issues have been raised before on meta does not mean they have been addressed, they have not. The amount of moderator criticism is not far from other metas, I would suggest you have look at Mathematics Meta as an example. There is absolutely nothing wrong with respectful constructive criticism.
    – Kaveh
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 17:31
  • 3
    Yes, the moderators are expected to educate others, other high rep users should also , but moderators definitely more than others. This is quite clear in SE moderation post. If they don't like it then they should not be moderators. The same applies to the rest of your reply. No one said being a moderator is an easy job, no one is forcing them to remain moderators if they don't like to do what is expected from moderators.
    – Kaveh
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 17:33

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